Canto 6: chandaka-nivartanaḥ
Chandaka & Turning Back


The ostensible title of the present Canto is Turning Chandaka Back, so that it describes the Prince sending the horseman Chandaka back to Kapilavāstu.

Below the surface, however, the verb ni-√vṛt, to turn back, to stop, has deep meaning in the Buddha’s teaching as Aśvaghoṣa records it. Hence in Saundara-nanda Canto 16, the Buddha tells Nanda:

Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back (nivartakam). // SN16.42 //



tato muhūrtābhyudite jagac-cakṣuṣi bhās-kare /
bhārgavasyāśrama-padaṁ sa dadarśa nṛṇāṁ varaḥ // 6.1 //

Then at the instant of the rising of the light-producing eye of the world, / The ashram of a son of Bhṛgu Bhṛgu was the name of a prominent family of the brahman, or priestly, class. The seer regarded as the ancestor of the family was also called Bhṛgu.01 he the best of men did see. //6.1//

supta-viśvasta-hariṇaṁ svastha-sthita-vihaṅgamam /
viśrānta iva yad dṛṣṭvā kṛtārtha iva cābhavat // 6.2 //

Deer there breathed easy, in unsuspecting sleep, and birds perched with self-assurance – / On seeing which he seemed reposed, like one who has been successful. //6.2//

sa vismaya-nivṛtty arthaṁ tapaḥ-pūjārtham eva ca /
svāṁ cānuvartitāṁ rakṣann aśva-pṛṣṭhād avātarat // 6.3 //

As an act of inhibition of pride, and out of respect, yes, for ascetic endeavour, / While guarding his own submission, The concept of anuvartitā, submissiveness or compliance, featured in Udāyin’s speech (BC4.50, 4.67, 4.69) and the prince’s reply (BC4.93). In today’s verse the ostensible meaning is that the prince maintained his submissiveness, i.e..he was polite. A deeper and more sceptical reading is that he withheld submission. In fact, at this stage, the prince is not prepared to submit to the principle of asceticism – this doesn’t happen until the end of BC Canto 12. 02 he got down off the back of the horse. //6.3//

avatīrya ca pasparśa nistīrṇam iti vājinam /
chandakaṁ cābravīt prītaḥ snāpayann iva cakṣuṣā // 6.4 //

Having got down he patted the war-horse, saying “Well done,” / And said to Chandaka, with joyful appreciation, as if bathing him in his eyes: //6.4//

imaṁ tārkṣyopama-javaṁ turaṅgam anugacchatā /
darśitā saumya mad-bhaktir vikramaś cāyam ātmanaḥ // 6.5 //

“By following this horse as swift as Tārkṣya, Tārkṣya is described in the Ṛg-veda as a swift horse, but also taken to be a bird and later (e.g. in the Mahā-bhārata) identified with Garuda. The prince is praising Chandaka for the kind of submissive following which co-exists with initiative – as the passive and active co-exist in the samādhi of accepting and using the self. 03 / O mellow man of soma, you have shown devotion to me. This, at the same time, is your own valiant doing. //6.5//

sarvathāsmy anya-kāryo ’pi gṛhīto bhavatā hṛdi /
bhartṛ-snehaś ca yasyāyam īdṛśī śaktir eva ca // 6.6 //

While altogether absorbed in alternative pursuit, Ostensibly by anya-kārya “other work,” the prince is apologizing for his mind having been on other things. In the hidden meaning,anya expresses the principle of truly alternative pursuit, as a thinking and non-thinking individual. 04 I am taken into the heart by you – / You who possess this allegiance to a master and at the same time such proactive power. //6.6//

a-snigdho ’pi samartho ’sti niḥ-sāmarthyo ’pi bhaktimān /
bhaktimāṁs caiva śaktaś ca durlabhas tvad-vidho bhuvi // 6.7 //

Some, while uncongenial, are capable; some, though ineffectual, are devoted; / One of your ilk, both devoted and able, is hard to find on this earth. //6.7//

tat prīto ’smi tavānena mahā-bhāgena karmaṇā /
dṛśyate mayi bhāvo ’yaṁ phalebhyo ’pi parāṅ-mukhe // 6.8 //

Therefore I am gladdened by this most magnificent action of yours. / This attitude towards me is conspicuous, turned away while I am from rewards Being phalebhyaḥ parāṅ-mukhaḥ, turned away from rewards, may be taken as an amplification of the meaning of anya, being different, in verse 6. 05. //6.8//

ko janasya phala-sthasya na syād abhimukho janaḥ /
janī-bhavati bhūyiṣṭhaṁ sva-jano ’pi viparyaye // 6.9 //

What person would not tend to turn his face in the direction of a person who offers promise of reward? / Even one’s own people become, on the whole, part of common humankind, in the event of a turnaround in the opposite direction. The hidden meaning relates to the turning back of the canto title. Ostensibly, when things turn out badly for ordinary people (one of whom Chandaka is not), even members of one’s own family become just anybody. In the hidden meaning, when a bodhisattva turns back towards her original nature, all human beings are already her own family. 06 //6.9//

kulārthaṁ dhāryate putraḥ poṣārthaṁ sevyate pitā /
āśayāc chliṣyati jagan nāsti niṣkāraṇāsvatā // 6.10 //

For the sake of continuing a line, a son is maintained; on account of his nurturing of growth, a father is served; / Living beings cohere because of an agenda – there is no unselfishness without a cause. The ironic hidden meaning is that having a true agenda liberates us from selfishness. 07 //6.10//

kim uktvā bahu saṁkṣepāt kṛtaṁ me sumahat-priyam /
nivartasvāśvam ādāya saṁprāpto ’smīpsitaṁ padam // 6.11 //

Why say much? It is a great kindness to me that you have, in a word, done. / Take the horse and turn back! I have arrived where I wanted to be.” //6.11//

ity uktvā sa mahā-bāhur ānṛśaṁsa-cikīrṣayā /
bhūṣaṇāny avamucyāsmai saṁtapta-manase dadau // 6.12 //

Thus having spoken, he of mighty arm, desiring by his action to prevent what injures a man, Ostensibly ānṛśaṁsa-cikīrṣayā means “desiring to do a kindness.” But a-nṛ-śaṁsa (lit. not man-injuring) is originally negative, and brings to mind the preventive principle, which might be the true pearl. 08 / Unloosened ornaments and gave them to him whose mind was inflamed with grief. //6.12//

mukuṭād dīpa-karmāṇaṁ maṇim ādāya bhāsvaram /
bruvan vākyam idaṁ tasthau sāditya iva mandaraḥ // 6.13 //

The shining pearl, which serves as a source of light, he took into his possession, from his crown, / And firmly he stood, speaking these words, like Mount Mandara A sacred mountain said to have served the gods for a churning-stick with which to churn the ocean. 09 in the Aditi-begotten sun. //6.13//

anena maṇinā chanda praṇamya bahuśo nṛpaḥ /
vijñāpyo ’mukta-viśrambhaṁ saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye // 6.14 //

“Using this pearl, Chanda, bow down repeatedly, / And, without loosening your grip on fearlessness, Viśrambha means 1. loosening, relaxation; 2. confidence, trust; and 3. absence of restraint, familiarity. So amukta-viśrambham might be read as a paradoxical directive along the lines of thinking the state of not-thinking – e.g. “without loosening your grip on loosening” or “without letting go of coming undone.” 10 commune with the protector of men Ostensibly vijñāpyaḥ means “tell him” or “let him know.” In the hidden meaning, the communication Aśvaghoṣa has in mind might be non-verbal. 11 so that the fires of anguish may be turned back and extinguished. //6.14//

jarā-maraṇa-nāśārthaṁ praviṣṭo ’smi tapo-vanam /
na khalu svarga-tarṣeṇa nāsnehena na manyunā // 6.15 //

[Tell the king as follows:]
‘For an end to aging and death, I have entered the ascetic woods; / Not out of any thirst for heaven, nor disaffectedly, nor with zealous ardour. //6.15//

tad evam abhiniṣkrāntaṁ na māṁ śocitum arhasi /
bhūtvāpi hi ciraṁ śleṣaḥ kālena na bhaviṣyati // 6.16 //

So you ought not to grieve for me who thus am well and truly gone; / Since any union, for however long it has existed, in time will cease to exist. //6.16//

dhruvo yasmāc ca viśleṣas tasmān mokṣāya me matiḥ /
viprayogaḥ kathaṁ na syād bhūyo ’pi sva-janād iti // 6.17 //

And since separation is certain therefore my mind is directed towards liberation / In order that, somehow, one might not be repeatedly dissevered from one’s own people. //6.17//

śoka-tyāgāya niṣkrāntaṁ na māṁ śocitum arhasi /
śoka-hetuṣu kāmeṣu saktāḥ śocyās tu rāgiṇaḥ // 6.18 //

For me who has left, to leave sorrow behind, you ought not to sorrow. / Those stuck on sorrow-causing desires – those who carry the taint of redness – rather, are the ones to sorrow for. //6.18//

ayaṁ ca kila pūrveṣām asmākaṁ niścayaḥ sthiraḥ /
iti dāyādya-bhūtena na śocyo ’smi pathā vrajan // 6.19 //

And this, assuredly, was the firm resolve of our forebears! / Going, in this spirit, by a path akin to an inheritance, I am not to be sorrowed after. //6.19//

bhavanti hy artha-dāyādāḥ puruṣasya viparyaye /
pṛthivyāṁ dharma-dāyādāḥ durlabhās tu na santi vā // 6.20 //

For when a man experiences a reverse and comes to an end, The meanings of viparyaya include turning round and coming to an end. The ostensible meaning here is coming to an end, i.e. dying. The hidden meaning is as per verse 9. 12 there are heirs to a thing of substance he possesses. / Dharma-heirs, however, on the earth, are hard to find, or non-existent. Ostensibly, the prince is thinking light of artha, wealth, things of substance, and assigning weight to religious dharma. In the hidden meaning, he is thinking light of religious dharmas which do not really exist, and assigning weight to paramārtha, ultimate reality. 13 //6.20//

yad api syād asamaye yāto vanam asāv iti /
akālo nāsti dharmasya jīvite cañcale sati // 6.21 //

Though he might be said to have gone at a bad time to the forest, / In dharma, in truth, no bad time exists – life being as fickle as it is. //6.21//

tasmād adyaiva me śreyaś cetavyam iti niścayaḥ /
jīvite ko hi viśrambho mṛtyau praty-arthini sthite // 6.22 //

Therefore my conviction is that, this very day, the better state is there to be garnered in me. / For who can rely on lasting life while inimical death stands by?’ //6.22//

evam-ādi tvayā saumya vijñāpyo vasudhādhipaḥ /
prayatethās tathā caiva yathā māṁ na smared api // 6.23 //

With words like these and otherwise, In the hidden meaning, by both verbal and – more importantly – by non-verbal means. 14 my gentle friend, you are to commune with a ruler of the wealth-giving earth; / And may you endeavour further, so that he is not mindful of me at all. Ostensibly, so that he, the king, forgets about me, the prince. In the hidden meaning, so that he drops off body and mind. 15 //6.23//

api nairguṇyam asmākaṁ vācyaṁ nara-patau tvayā /
nairguṇyāt tyajyate snehaḥ sneha-tyāgān na śocyate // 6.24 //

Indeed, speak to the king of our being-without virtue. Ostensibly, nairguṇyam means absence of virtue. The hidden meaning is the virtue of being without – e.g. being without ignorance and associated doings, attachments, and so on. 16 / Because of the being-without virtue, attachment is abandoned. Ostensible meaning: when we see the faults in a loved one, attachment to that loved one diminishes. For the hidden meaning, or real meaning, see BC Canto 14. 17 Because of abandoning attachment, one does not suffer grief.” //6.24//

iti vākyam idaṁ śrutvā chandaḥ saṁtāpa-viklavaḥ /
bāṣpa-grathitayā vācā pratyuvāca kṛtāñjaliḥ // 6.25 //

Having heard these words, the anguished Chanda, / With voice clogged with tears, as he stood with hands held together in a reverent posture, answered back: //6.25//

anena tava bhāvena bāndhavāyāsa-dāyinā /
bhartaḥ sīdati me ceto nadī-paṅka iva dvipaḥ // 6.26 //

“Because of this purport of yours, which so exercises those who are close to you, Āyāsa mean 1. effort, exertion, 2. trouble, anguish. Ostensibly Chandaka means that what is in the prince’s heart will cause anguish to his relatives. The hidden meaning is that what is in the hearts and minds of buddhas and bodhisattvas encourages people around them to join in an effort. 18 / My heart, Master!, sinks, like an elephant into mud by a river. //6.26//

kasya notpādayed bāṣpaṁ niścayas te ’yam īdṛśaḥ /
ayo-maye ’pi hṛdaye kiṁ punaḥ sneha-viklave // 6.27 //

Who would not be moved to tears by a resolve such as this of yours, / Even with a heart made of iron? How much more with a heart befuddled by attachment? //6.27//

vimāna-śayanārhaṁ hi saukumāryam idaṁ kva ca /
khara-darbhāṅkuravatī tapo-vana-mahī kva ca // 6.28 //

For where could there co-exist this softness, fit for a bed in a palace, / And the ground of the ascetic forest, covered with hard blades of darbha grass? Ostensibly it is a rhetorical question. In the hidden meaning, it is a pointer to the condition in which hard and soft co-exist in harmony. 19 //6.28//

śrutvā tu vyavasāyaṁ te yad aśvo ’yaṁ mayāhṛtaḥ /
balāt kāreṇa tan nātha daivenaivāsmi kāritaḥ // 6.29 //

But when I learned from you your purpose, Master, and I brought for you this horse, / I was caused to do it, inescapably, by a doing which really was divine. //6.29//

kathaṁ hy ātma-vaśo jānan vyavasāyam imaṁ tava /
upānayeyaṁ turagaṁ śokaṁ kapilavastunaḥ // 6.30 //

For how by my own will could I, knowing this purpose of yours, / Lead swift-going sorrow away from Kapilavastu In the ostensible meaning kapilavastunaḥ is genitive so that turagaṁ śokaṁ kapilavastunaḥ means “the horse, the bale/sorrow of Kapilavastu.” In that case, Chandaka’s question is “how could I have brought the horse to you?” In the hidden meaning, kapilavastunaḥ is ablative, so that turagaṁ śokaṁ kapilavastunaḥ means “swift-going sorrow from Kapilavastu.” In that case Chandaka is asking about the means quickly to dispel sorrow. For example, is the means doing by one’s own volition? Or is the means non-doing, in which the right thing seems to do itself? 20? //6.30//

tan nārhasi mahā-bāho vihātuṁ putra-lālasam /
snigdhaṁ vṛddhaṁ ca rājānaṁ sad-dharmam iva nāstikaḥ // 6.31 //

Therefore, O man of mighty arm! The fond old king who is so devoted to his son / You should not forsake in the way that a nihilist forsakes true dharma. Ostensibly Chandaka is saying (falsely) that the prince should never leave the king at all. In the hidden meaning, he is saying (truly) that, when it comes to leaving home, the home-leaver should not leave in a misguided manner. 21 //6.31//

saṁvardhana-pariśrāntāṁ dvitīyāṁ tāṁ ca mātaram
devīṁ nārhasi vismartuṁ kṛta-ghna iva sat-kriyām // 6.32 //

And the queen who exhausted herself bringing you up, your second mother – / You should not forget her in the way that an ingrate forgets the rendering of kindness. Again, the hidden meaning is that one should leave, but not like that. 22 //6.32//

bāla-putrāṁ guṇavatīṁ kula-ślāghyāṁ pati-vratām /
devīm arhasi na tyaktuṁ klībaḥ prāptām iva śriyam // 6.33 //

The princess, mother of your young son and possessor of her own virtues, who is laudable as a noble lady and loyal as a wife – / You should not leave her in the way that a sissy abdicates a high office he has assumed. //6.33//

putraṁ yāśodharaṁ ślāghyaṁ yaśo-dharma-bhṛtāṁ varam /
bālam arhasi na tyaktuṁ vyasanīvottamaṁ yaśaḥ // 6.34 //

The boy who is Yaśodhara’s laudable son, a most excellent bearer of your glory and dharma – / You should not part from him in the way that a compulsive grafter forgoes ultimate glory. //6.34//

atha bandhuṁ ca rājyaṁ ca tyaktum eva kṛtā matiḥ /
māṁ nārhasi vibho tyaktuṁ tvat-pādau hi gatir mama // 6.35 //

Or else, if kith and kingdom you are determined to renounce, / Please, Master, do not abandon me – for your two feet are my refuge. //6.35//

nāsmi yātuṁ puraṁ śakto dahyamānena cetasā /
tvām araṇye parityajya sumantra iva rāghavam // 6.36 //

I am not able, with a mind that is burning, to go to the city, / Having left you behind in the woods – as Sumantra was unable to leave behind Raghu-descended Rāma. In the Rāmayāna, Su-mantra (lit. ‘Following Good Advice’) is the name of a minister and charioteer of Rāma’s father Daśa-ratha. In the 57th canto of the Rāmayāna, titled The Return of Sumantra, the charioteer Sumantra does leave Rāma behind in the woods physically, but emotionally he does not. 23 //6.36//

kiṁ hi vakṣyati māṁ rājā tvad-ṛte nagaraṁ gatam /
vakṣyāmy ucita-darśitvāt kiṁ tavāntaḥ-purāṇi vā // 6.37 //

For what will the king express to me when I arrive in the city without you? / Again, what shall I express, based on seeing what is expedient, to the ones within the battlements, who belong to you? Again, ostensibly Chandaka is worrying about somehow finding a way out of a personal predicament. In the hidden meaning, a student is asking about the expedient means whereby he or she might convey to other followers of the Buddha the Buddha’s truth of non-doing. 24 //6.37//

yad apy ātthāpi nairguṇyaṁ vācyaṁ nara-patāv iti /
kiṁ tad vakṣyāmy abhūtaṁ te nir-doṣasya muner iva // 6.38 //

Though you have said that the being-without virtue is to be communicated to a ruler of men, / How am I to communicate what in you is absent – as is absent in a faultless sage? This is a question which, two generations after Aśvaghoṣa, Nāgārjuna famously picks up in his exposition of the absence, in all things, of any intrinsic thing – the teaching known for short as śūnyatā, emptiness. 25 //6.38//

hṛdayena sa-lajjena jihvayā sajjamānayā /
ahaṁ yady api vā brūyāṁ kas tac-chrad-dhātum arhati // 6.39 //

Or, even if, with shame-tinged heart and cleaving tongue, / I were to speak words, who is going to give credence to that? Ostensibly Chandaka says, “Even if did tell such a lie, about your lack of virtue, who would believe me anyway?” In this case, the cause for shame, and the cause for the tongue getting tied, is the telling of a lie. Below the surface, the shame is having recourse to words. The shame is that words are always an inferior means of communicating the virtue of being without, the quality of emptiness. People who misunderstand this point treat Zen as a separate transmission outside of the verbal teaching. ~When they speak, they speak as if Zen were a separate transmission, which does not have recourse to verbal teaching. True Zen teachers, like Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna in India and like Dogen in Japan, are more skilful in their use of inadequate words. 26 //6.39//

yo hi candramasas taikṣṇyaṁ kathayec chrad-dadhīta vā /
sa doṣāṁs tava doṣa-jña kathayec chrad-dadhīta vā // 6.40 //

One who would tell of, or have confidence in, the fierceness of the mellow moon, / He would tell of faults in you, O knower of faults!, or would have confidence therein. If we follow ancient Indian custom, the moon is inherently mild and mellow. In the ancient Indian view, therefore, the moon is not fierce. But the Buddha’s teaching is in the direction of abandoning all views. 27 //6.40//

sānukrośasya satataṁ nityaṁ karuṇa-vedinaḥ /
snigdha-tyāgo na sadṛśo nivartasva prasīda me // 6.41 //

For one who is eternally compassionate, who is constantly steeped in kindness, / It is not befitting to abandon devoted friends. Turn back, please, for me. Ostensibly Chandaka is exhorting the prince to turn back towards Kapilavastu. In the hidden meaning, to turn back is to learn the backward step of turning light around and letting it shine – and in this way never to abandon all bodhisattvas and mahāsattvas. 28” //6.41//

iti śokābhibhūtasya śrutvā chandasya bhāṣitam /
svasthaḥ paramayā dhṛtyā jagāda vadatāṁ varaḥ // 6.42 //

Having listened to this speech of the grief-stricken Chanda, / Being at ease in himself, thanks to constancy of the highest order, the best of speakers spoke: //6.42//

mad-viyogaṁ prati chanda saṁtāpas tyajyatām ayam /
nānā-bhāvo hi niyataḥ pṛthag-jātiṣu dehiṣu // 6.43 //

“Let this distress at separation from me, Chanda, be abandoned. / Disparate existence is the rule, among singly-born beings who own a body. In the hidden meaning, individuals, each of whom, in just sitting, is lord of the earth.29 //6.43//

sva-janaṁ yady api snehān na tyajeyaṁ mumukṣayā /
mṛtyur anyonyam avaśān asmān saṁtyājayiṣyati // 6.44 //

Even if, while retaining the desire to be free, I, through attachment, fail to abandon my own people, / Death, perforce, will cause us totally to abandon one another. In the hidden meaning, death might be the state of a practitioner who is through with breathing. 30 //6.44//

mahatyā tṛṣṇayā duḥkhair garbheṇāsmi yayā dhṛtaḥ /
tasyā niṣphala-yatnāyāḥ kvāhaṁ mātuḥ kva sā mama // 6.45 //

With a great desire, and attendant sufferings, she bore me in her womb: / When her effort’s fruit is naught, In the hidden meaning, when the practitioner comes to quiet. 31 where will I be, for my mother? Where she, for me? //6.45//

vāsa-vṛkṣe samāgamya vigacchanti yathāṇḍa-jāḥ /
niyataṁ viprayogāntas tathā bhūta-samāgamaḥ // 6.46 //

Just as, on a roosting-tree, birds of an egg-born feather flock together and then go their separate ways, / So does an association of real beings always have separation as its end. In the hidden meaning, separation means, for example, the ending of attachment. 32 //6.46//

sametya ca yathā bhūyo vyapayānti balāhakāḥ /
saṁyogo viprayogaś ca tathā me prāṇināṁ mataḥ // 6.47 //

Just as clouds join together and then drift apart again, / So, as I see it, is the joining and separation of those who breathe. //6.47//

yasmād yāti ca loko ’yaṁ vipralabhya parasparam /
mamatvaṁ na kṣamaṁ tasmāt svapna-bhūte samāgame // 6.48 //

And since this world slips away, each side leaving the other disappointed, / The sense that it belongs to me is not fitting, in a coming together that’s like a dream. In the hidden meaning, the suggestion is the dropping away of divided consciousness of body and mind, self and external world. 33 //6.48//

sahajena viyujyante parṇa-rāgeṇa pāda-pāḥ /
anyenānyasya viśleṣaḥ kiṁ punar na bhaviṣyati // 6.49 //

Trees shed the redness of leaves generic to them; / How much surer is separation to come to pass between one individual and another one who is different. Ostensibly anyenānyasya viśleṣaḥ means “the separation of one thing from another thing which is different from it.” This is supposed to be even surer than a tree’s shedding of the leaves which originally belong to it. In the hidden meaning, the prince might be speaking of the one-to-one transmission of a letting go. 34 //6.49//

tad evaṁ sati saṁtāpaṁ mā kārṣīḥ saumya gamyatām /
lambate yadi tu sneho gatvāpi punar āvraja // 6.50 //

It being so, O mellow man of soma, do not agonize! Let there be movement! / And if attachment lingers on, having gone away, then come again. Ostensible meaning: Go back to Kapilavastu! Hidden meaning: Practise meaningful repetition! 35 //6.50//

brūyāś cāsmāsu sāpekṣaṁ janaṁ kapilavastuni /
tyajyatāṁ tad-gataḥ snehaḥ śrūyatāṁ cāsya niścayaḥ // 6.51 //

And say to people in Kapilavastu who look to me with expectation: / ‘Let attachment directed there be given up, and let this purpose here and now be heard. Ostensible meaning: Listen to the following words! Hidden meaning: Mind here and now is buddha. 36 //6.51//

kṣipram eṣyati vā kṛtvā jarā-mṛtyu-kṣayaṁ kila /
akṛtārtho nirārambho nidhanaṁ yāsyatīti vā // 6.52 //

Either he will come back quickly, I believe, having put an end to aging and death, / Or else deflated, his aim undone, Ostensibly a-kṛtārthaḥ means unsuccessful. Ironically, it might mean being successful in a negative matter, like un-doing or non-doing. 37 he will go to his own end. He will come back to his original state.38' " //6.52//

iti tasya vacaḥ śrutvā kanthakas turagottamaḥ /
jihvayā lilihe pādau bāṣpam uṣṇaṁ mumoca ca // 6.53 //

Having listened to these words of his, Kanthaka, highest among swift-going horses, / Licked the prince’s feet with his tongue and shed hot tears. //6.53//

jālinā svastikāṅkena cakra-madhyena pāṇinā /
āmamarśa kumāras taṁ babhāṣe ca vayasyavat // 6.54 //

Using a hand whose fingers formed a gapless web, a mark of well-being, Svastikāṅkena means “with the swastika mark.” The swastika is originally an auspicious sign or mark of well-being (sv = well; asti = being). Rather than understanding the swastika to be an extraneous symbol, I have taken the webbed fingers (i.e. fingers being without deformity, having no gaps between them) as the auspicious sign itself. 39 using a hand with a wheel in its middle, Ostensibly, the hand carried not only swastika symbols but also a wheel sign on its palm. An alternative reading is that the prince in stroking his horse was conscious of his hand not only as a mechanical device but also as an energy centre; and so he used his hand with a cakra (wheel) in its middle. 40 / The prince stroked the horse and spoke to him like a friend equal in years They were friends, but were not equal in years; hence “like.” 41: //6.54//

muñca kanthaka mā bāṣpaṁ darśiteyaṁ sad-aśvatā /
mṛṣyatāṁ sa-phalaḥ śīghraṁ śramas te ’yaṁ bhaviṣyati // 6.55 //

“Do not shed tears, Kanthaka! This the true horse-nature is proven. Does a horse have the buddha-nature? Aśvaghoṣa nowhere discusses buddha-nature (buddhatā). But here he has the prince speak of sad-aśva-tā, true-horse-nature. 42 / Let it be. This effort of yours will rapidly become fruitful.” //6.55//

maṇi-tsaruṁ chandaka-hasta-saṁsthaṁ tataḥ kumāro niśitaṁ gṛhītvā /
kośād asiṁ kāñcana-bhakti-citraṁ bilād ivāśī-viṣam udbabarha // 6.56 //

The jewelled hilt in Chandaka’s hand the prince then sharply grasped, / And from its sheath the gold-streaked sword, like a viper from its hole, he drew up and out. //6.56//

niṣkāsya taṁ cotpala-pattra-nīlaṁ ciccheda citraṁ mukuṭaṁ sa-keśam /
vikīryamāṇāṁśukam antar-īkṣe cikṣepa cainaṁ sarasīva haṁsam // 6.57 //

Unsheathing that dark blue blade – ushering out the darkness of the ‘lotus petal’ brand The meanings of utpala-pattra include 1. the leaf or petal of a blue lotus, 2. a tilaka (an auspicious or superstitious or religious mark on the forehead), and 3. a broad-bladed knife. Nila means dark blue or dark. Utpala-pattra-nilam ostensibly means a dark-blue blade, but below the surface is there also an indirect suggestion of dispensing with the darkness of ancient superstitions, like lucky marks? 43 – he cut off his patterned headdress, along with his hair, / And into the middle distance between earth and heaven, as the unravelling muslin spread softly shining wings, An unavoidably creative translation. Vikīryamāṇāṁśukam could equally well mean “its fine cloth being unravelled” or “its gentle light being diffused.” Aṁśuka generally means fine white cloth, muslin, but the Apte dictionary also gives “a mild or gentle blaze of light.” EH Johnston notes that the Tibetan translation also takes aṁśu in the sense of rays of light. 44 he launched it, like a bar-headed goose towards a lake. //6.57//

pūjābhilāṣeṇa ca bāhu-mānyād divaukasas taṁ jagṛhuḥ praviddham /
yathāvad enaṁ divi deva-saṅghā divyair viśeṣair mahayāṁ ca cakruḥ // 6.58 //

With eager desire to worship it, because it was so greatly to be revered, the beings who dwell in heaven seized upon that jetsam; / And divine congregations in heaven, Divi deva-saṁghāh, “divine congregations in heaven.” Notice again that Aśvaghoṣa uses saṁgha as a collective noun for various beings in saṁsāra – like gods in heaven and applauding townsfolk (BC1.87) – but not for human individuals who in practice are following the Buddha. Saṁgha is nowhere used in Aśvaghoṣa’s poems in the conventional sense of “a brotherhood of monks” or “a community of Buddhists.” 45 with due ceremony, with special celestial honours, Divyair viśeṣaiḥ means “with divine specialities.” At the same time a viśeṣa, or special mark, is another name for the lucky religious symbol painted on the forehead. 46 exalted it. //6.58//

muktvā tv alaṁkāra-kalatravattāṁ śrī-vipravāsaṁ śirasaś ca kṛtvā /
dṛṣṭvāṁśukaṁ kāñcana-haṁsa-citram vanyaṁ sa dhīro ’bhicakāṅkṣa vāsaḥ // 6.59 //

He, however, having let go of being wedded to ornaments, having acted to banish the crowning glory from his head, / And having seen the softly shining light whose brightness is the best of gold, Kāñcana means gold (as in kāñcanam āsanam, golden seat/sitting). Haṁsa means goose or swan, or, in compounds, the best of anything. So ostensibly “the goose of gold” might refer to the muslin headdress which flew away like a bar-headed goose. But I think the real meaning which Aśvaghoṣa had in mind was to point to the practice of sitting in lotus as the most valuable thing there is. 47 he with firm steadfastness longed for clothing of the forest. //6.59//

tato mṛga-vyādha-vapur-divaukā bhāvaṁ viditvāsya viśuddha-bhāvaḥ /
kāṣāya-vastro ’bhiyayau samīpaṁ taṁ śākya-rāja-prabhavo ’bhyuvāca // 6.60 //

Then a sky dweller in the guise of a hunter of forest game, his heart being pure, knew what was in the other’s heart / And he drew near, in his ochre-coloured camouflage. The son of the Śākya king said to him: //6.60//

śivaṁ ca kāṣāyam ṛṣi-dhvajas te na yujyate hiṁsram idaṁ dhanuś ca /
tat saumya yady asti na saktir atra mahyaṁ prayacchedam idaṁ gṛhāṇa // 6.61 //

“Your propitious ochre robe, the banner of a seer, does not go with this deadly bow. / Therefore, my friend, should there be no attachment in this matter, give me that and you take this.” //6.61//

vyādho ’bravīt kāma-da kāmam ārād anena viśvāsya mṛgān nihatya /
arthas tu śakropama yady anena hanta pratīcchānaya śuklam etat // 6.62 //

The hunter spoke: “This robe, O granter of desires, is the means whereby, from as far away as desired, I inspire trust in wild creatures, only to shoot them down.... Below the surface, this might be a suggestion of a function of the so-called “ritual robe,” before it is realized as an emblem of what is real, not religious. 48 / But if you have a use for this means, O man as mighty as Indra, here, accept it, and render here the white.” //6.62//

pareṇa harṣeṇa tataḥ sa vanyaṁ jagrāha vāso ’ṁśukam utsasarja /
vyādhas tu divyaṁ vapur eva bibhrat tac-chuklam ādāya divaṁ jagāma // 6.63 //

Then, with joy of the highest order, he took the garment of the forest and gave away his linen finery; / But the hunter, wearing the very essence of the divine, went to heaven, taking that whiteness with him. The suggestion, again, below the surface is that what is white, or spiritually pure, rightly belongs in heaven – a place that does not really exist, except in people’s minds. 49 //6.63//

tataḥ kumāraś ca sa cāśva-gopas tasmiṁs tathā yāti visismiyāte /
āraṇyake vāsasi caiva bhūyas tasminn akārṣṭāṁ bahu-mānam āśu // 6.64 //

Then the prince and the horse-master (aśva-gopa), Aśvaghoṣa calls Chandaka by many epithets in this canto. This one, aśva-gopa (‘horse-keeper’), seems to be a play on his own name aśva-ghoṣa (‘horse-whinny’). 50 marvelled at his departing in such a manner; / And of that clothing of the forest all the more highly did they think. //6.64//

chandaṁ tataḥ sāśru-mukhaṁ visṛjya kāṣāya-saṁvid-dhṛti-kīrti-bhṛt saḥ /
yenāśramas tena yayau mahātmā saṁdhyābhra-saṁvīta ivoḍu-rājaḥ // 6.65 //

Then, having set the tear-faced Chanda free, clad in consciousness of the ochre robe and wearing constancy and honour, / He moved majestically in the direction of the ashram, like the moon – king among stars – veiled by a dusky cloud. //6.65//

tatas tathā bhartari rājya-niḥspṛhe tapo-vanaṁ yāti vivarṇa-vāsasi /
bhujau samutkṣipya tataḥ sa vāji-bhṛd bhṛśaṁ vicukrośa papāta ca kṣitau // 6.66 //

And so, as his master was retiring like this into the ascetic woods, desiring nothing in the way of sovereignty In the hidden meaning, nothing (or emptiness) is what confers true sovereignty. 51 and wearing clothing of no distinction, The meaning of vivarṇa is having no colour or having no caste. Its ostensible meaning is pejorative – the dictionary gives “pale; low, vile; belonging to a mixed caste.” Thus Aśvaghoṣa subverts those pejorative meanings in his ironic description of the kaṣāya as vivarṇa-vāsas, “clothing of no distinction.” 52 / The preserver of the war-horse, there and then, threw up his arms, cried out wildly, and fell upon the earth. //6.66//

vilokya bhūyaś ca ruroda sa-svaraṁ hayaṁ bhujābhyām upaguhya kanthakam /
tato nir-āśo vilapan muhur muhur yayau śarīreṇa puraṁ na cetasā // 6.67 //

Looking again, he bellowed in full voice and embraced the horse Kanthaka with both arms; / Thus, devoid of hope or expectation, and lamenting over and over, he journeyed back to the city with his body, not with his mind. Ostensible meaning: Looking [at the prince] again, he wept out loud, and hugged the horse Kanthaka with both arms. / Then, hopelessly lamenting over and over again, he withdrew to the city with his body, though his heart was not in it.
Hidden meaning: Seeing [everything] with fresh eyes, he loudly roared [the lion’s roar], having fully embraced the horse-power of Kanthaka. / On that basis, being without expectation and repeatedly sorrowing [for the clinging world], he journeyed to the city riding a wave of pure physical energy – nothing mental.

kva-cit pradadhyau vilalāpa ca kva-cit kva-cit pracaskhāla papāta ca kva-cit /
ato vrajan bhakti-vaśena duḥkhitaś cacāra bahvīr avaśaḥ pathi kriyāḥ // 6.68 //

Here he reflected, √dhyai, the root from which dhyāna is derived, means to ponder or to brood, and also to meditate. Ostensibly Chandaka is described as a hapless emotional being, brooding as he goes on his miserable way. Below the surface, the verse might be Aśvaghoṣa’s ironic description of his own life, centred on the practice of non-doing. 54 there he lamented; here he stumbled, there he fell; / And so keeping on, suffering pain on account of devotion, he did without meaning to do many actions on the path. //6.68//

iti buddha-carite mahā-kāvye chandaka-nivartano nāma ṣaṣṭhaḥ sargaḥ // 6 //
The 6th canto, titled Chandaka Turning Back,
in an epic tale of awakened action.